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Suicide Watch: The MN Department of Veterans Affairs must hire more counselors, especially people of color to deal with major uptick in Veterans mental health issues

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After receiving the answer to a data request from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs commissioner, hiring people of color is not on the agenda (Investigative report in progress).

Posted by Our Black News

In 2006, Congress empowered the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) to work in the Veterans Health Administration. Despite that law being in effect for seven years, LPCs still only make up less than one percent of the VA’s total mental health workforce.

The barriers that LPCs face are the result of self-imposed VA restrictions, which impede the hiring of counselors. For instance, counselors are not integrated into a VA training program for health professionals. The VA has not called on the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) to create what is known in the federal government as an “occupational series.” This means that agencies (in this case the VA) cannot and will not create job announcements because there is no position description. If an LPC does get hired, they may end up being placed into a sub-clinical position, which means they can’t actually counsel the veterans who need help.

The VA needs to be held accountable for their actions and they need to act NOW. By their own estimates, our nation loses 18 veterans a day to suicide. How many of those veterans died without receiving the care they needed and deserved? How many veterans will we lose before the VA decides to act?

Leaders in the House and the Senate must move quickly to safeguard the mental health of our veterans. Specifically, federal lawmakers can demand that the VA take the following actions:

  • Fully integrate Licensed Professional Counselors into the VA’s training program so that we can place more Licensed Professional Counselors into the “pipeline” to get hired by VA.
  • Direct OPM to create qualification standards so that an LPC can be hired to counsel veterans.
  • Call on the VA to appoint a liaison to Minnesota’s black and communities of color to strategize ways to bring more counselors into the system. Currently, the MDVA alienates veterans and communities of color.

Demand the MDVA issue a public notice to the entire VA healthcare system (Specifically to VISN Directors, VMAC Directors and HR Directors) reminding them that they are empowered to hire Licensed Professional Counselors, and telling them not to shut-out an entire profession that is trained to help our vets.

Tell the VA to collaborate with professionals in communities of color to help fill vacancies in the VA.

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